Wednesday, January 22, 2014

The Bart Book of the Dead

Robert Boyd

The catalog says it best: "Sketch Klubb is a group of friends who get together every other Saturday morning to draw." It was 12 guys, but one of them, Michael Harwell, recently died. 1,000 Crappy Barts for Michael Harwell plus Klay Klubb is a tribute to their lost compadre.

When you walk into the big back gallery of Box 13, there is a vitrine with an open sketchbook. This is Harwell's sketchbook, and the page we see has 16 drawings of Bart Simpson's head. There are a minimal number of lines in the Matt Groening-designed head of Bart, and Harwell deliberately takes them apart.

Starting from this page, the surviving members of Sketch Klubb--Seth Alverson, Rene Cruz, Russell Etchen, Sebastian Forray, Lane Hagood, Cody Ledvina, Nick Meriwether, Eric Pearce, Patrick Phipps, J. Michael Stovall and David Wang--drew 1000 versions of Bart Simpson, which are on the three walls surrounding the vitrine.

They aren't very memorable drawings. The goal was quantity over quality. This may reflect the ethos of Sketch Klubb. They've put together a few zines and a book before, but I suspect the idea is to get together and draw without having an endgame in mind. Doesn't matter if it's "good."

Not that there weren't a few drawings that were clever. Like this Creature from the Black Lagoon Bart.

Or this Bart who looks a little like Hank Hill crossed with Walter White.

How about an airbrushed Bart with 13 eyes?

Or a sweaty Bart with a beard and boobs for eyes. (There were a lot of mutant Barts in the show.)

The work was hung in a off-hand, unprofessional way--pages curled up in the humidity. But that seemed right. After all, they weren't creating something for the ages--this was a temporary tribute to Harwell that no doubt recalled their casual Saturday morning get-togethers.

Slightly more finished work was on display in the front gallery of Box 13. These were ceramic objects made by Sketch Klubb. None of the work was labeled, so for the purpose of this review, just assume a collective authorship for these bizarre ceramic knick-knacks.

(Thank God the "MAN MILK" jug was empty.)

Some of them are pretty funny, and they seem like a natural extension of the artistic ethos of Sketch Klubb.

The individual artists in Sketch Klubb do a wide variety of work on their own, but as diverse as their styles are, I'd say that what they have in common is an element of humor. The question I have is that was it their sense of humor that drew them together in 2005, or is their sense of humor as artists partly a result of their time together in Sketch Klubb?

I saw this exhibit on opening night. The crowd was boisterous and good humored. I wonder what it would be like to see when the galleries are quiet and unpopulated.

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